The study is part of a doctoral dissertation by Susanne Akterin at Karolinska Instititet in which she examined mice which had been genetically modified to be more susceptible to effects similar those which accompany Alzheimer’s.
For a period of nine months, the mice in the study were fed a diet high in fat, sugar, and cholesterol – substances found in abundance in fast food items.
“When we studied the mice’s brains, we saw a chemical change similar to what one sees in a brain with Alzheimer’s,” said Akterin in a statement.
Among other things, small growths appeared on the nerve cells which impeded the cells from functioning normally.
The study was designed to emulate a genetic variant known as apoE4, one of the most common genetic risk factors for the onset of Alzheimer’s in humans.
The apoE4 allele is carried by about 15 to 20 percent of the population.
There were also signs of reduced levels of a substance which is important for storing memory.
“Our hypothesis is therefore that a high intake of fat and cholesterol, in conjunction with genetic factors like apoE4, can lead to several substances in the brain being adversely affected and that can be a contributing cause to the development of Alzheimer’s,” said Akterin.
While the study does provide some clues for how to prevent the neurological disorder, Akterin cautioned that more research is needed before doctors will be able to develop guidelines for the general public.